A brace from Jesse Lingard put Manchester United through to the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup in a routine win away at Swansea City.
José Mourinho named a heavily changed side, with both one eye on a tough match-up with Tottenham at the weekend, and also seeking a response after last Saturday’s lackluster display at Huddersfield Town. Axel Tuanzebe made his first start of the season in a side that featured 6 players under the age of 24. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford lined up together up front in a 3-5-2.
United’s traveling support were in full voice, drowning out the home crowd during the tentative opening minutes on the pitch. The traveling Reds only got more boisterous when Lingard opened the scoring after 20 minutes. A deft touch by Rashford put his fellow academy graduate through, and Lingard finished expertly into the corner. United were hardly back to their fluid best, but it was the first time they had scored a first half goal since before the international break.
The closest that Swansea came to scoring in the first half was a mess of United’s own making. An awkward attempt at a clearing header by Daley Blind ricocheted off a Swansea player and ended up just a whisker outside of the post. United’s shaky defending didn’t stop there, but the Swans never attacked with enough conviction to put the Reds’ makeshift backline under pressure.
McTominay should have doubled United’s lead a few minutes before half-time, but the young midfielder could only blast the ball over the crossbar following Martial’s pull back. United went into the break looking somewhat unconvincing, but still in control of proceedings.
Mourinho’s men started the second half as they ended the first: comfortable, but not quite dominant. Even so, it took less than 15 minutes for them to extend their lead. Tuanzebe brought the ball out of defense, and found Matteo Darmian foraging forward. The Italian wing-back put in a lovely whipped cross, and it was Lingard again on hand to put away a deft header.
With a 2-0 lead, United now had their tails up, and were moving the ball around with confidence. At the 65 minute mark, Mourinho made the surprising decision to send on Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matić. Because of accumulated injuries however, those two key men were needed in order to give two other core players - Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford - some time off.
Sergio Romero made his first save of the game in the 75th minute, tipping a shot over from substitue Tammy Abraham. From there, United saw out the rest of the match without much incident. Luke Shaw made a rare appearance, replacing Martial with 5 minutes remaining. A last minute Romero save denied Swansea a consolation goal, and United move on to defend the League Cup.
This was not the convincing performance that many Reds had hoped for; one that would assuage the concerns raised by a relatively poor couple of weeks. But United were able to give needed rest to some key players, and got the job done.